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Structure and Dynamics

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The Structure and Dynamics eJournal welcomes articles, book reviews, data, simulations, research material, and special issues that examine aspects of human evolution, social structure and behavior, culture, cognition, or related topics. Our goal is to advance the historic mission of anthropology in the broadest sense to describe and explain the range of variation in human biology, society, culture and civilization across time and space. Submissions of databases, software tutorials, programs, and teaching materials are welcomed, as are communications on research materials of interest to a wide variety of science and social science researchers, including networks, dynamical models, and complexity research and related genre.


From Simulation Model to Critique of Structuration

In this paper I use a simulation model of Learning to Labor (Willis 1981) to critique Giddens’ structuration theory (Giddens 1984). The simulation model represents interactions between a group of non-conformist boys from Birmingham, England and an industrial capitalist business. I present the results of three simulation experiments designed to test the limits of structuration theory by exploring when decision-making based in cultural meaning conflicts with structural power and when it reproduces structural power. Tests explore how different non-conformist cultural values affect the economic system, and the cultural and economic conditions under which non-conformists may be more likely to reject their structural positions. Based on these results, I argue that structuration theory does not adequately explain how social structures arise because it does not account for interactions among agents and how analysis of these interactions may lead to a better understanding of the emergence of structures of power. I conclude by suggesting that the results of the research support Archer’s critique of structuration theory and Foucault’s admonition to avoid “theories of power.”

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Analysis of Power-Structure Fluctuations in the “Longue Durée” of the South Asian World System

A time series of political power configurations of the Indic world system 500 BC — AD 1800 is examined by way of Poisson process analysis, phase transition analysis, Markov process analysis, mathematical modeling and simulation, information theory, analysis of autocorrelation, periodogrammetry, and time-spectral analysis (including epoch superposition). The Indic system displays an unusual propensity toward bipolarity and unipolarity. The behavior of the Indic world system at first sight resembles a Poisson process in which the age of a configuration is irrelevant to its stability. However, the uneven stability of Indic configurations reveals a first-order Markov process at work, within a new sort of longue durée: extremely long-term rules of political change, durable over 2000 years, which seem to route all power structure transitions to, from, and through bipolarity and unipolarity. No progression is found, but rather temporal symmetry. However, upon spectral analysis, several periodicities, both long (300-400 years) and short (1, 2 and 3 generations) are found in the data, and proposed for historical examination.

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Networks of Symptoms and Exposures

We present some novel methods for analyzing and visualizing data from medical studies using methods originally developed for the study of social networks. The methods are based on spectral (eigendecomposition) properties of networks, in particular the so-called Normal spectrum. Among the many desirable properties of this spectrum is the natural handling of bipartite (2-mode) networks through negative eigenvalues, the clustering properties related to positive eigenvalues, and the relationship to the chi-squared measure of dependence in contingency tables.

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More Kin: An Effect of the Tradition of Marriage

Kinship has often been referred to as the heart of anthropology because societies are woven together by genealogical ties. In this paper we present a general model of the effect of the tradition of marriage on the potential number of individuals that can be identified as kin. The exact amount of increase in the number identifiable kin depends on demographic variables, but it will always be greater than the mere doubling of kin that might be first assumed. It is our hope that this model will stimulate discussions over whether or not such an increase in identified kin might have been important to human evolution, and if so, in what way and under what circumstances. Such discussions may help bridge the gap that has been created between those anthropologists who see kinship as fundamentally biological and those who see it as a purely cultural phenomenon.

Stories, Scripts, Roles, and Networks

In Identity and Control, Harrison White (1992) stresses the importance of stories as a medium for and outcome of efforts at control. Stories as social ties retell the events that have occurred between people or identities and they offer scripts for social action. The notion of stories as scripts is in line with an early result in the study of literature, where Vladímir Propp (Morphology of the Folktale, 1928) showed that a large corpus of Russian folktales are characterized by a script with a limited number of functions or roles that appear in a fixed order. It will be demonstrated that these roles can be identified by a signed dyadic tie with a particular chronological order and that the scripts culminate in a balanced situation. Furthermore, it will be shown that the temporally ordered ties occur in a social network and that the associated fairytale meanings seem to apply here as well. Finally, a nesting rule is proposed that captures the scripting of roles within fairytales. This rule, however, does not seem to exert a profound influence on the dynamics of the social network of literary authors and critics studied.

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The use of formal methods to map, analyze and interpret hawala and terrorist-related alternative remittance systems

Alternative remittance systems such as hawala derive from Eurasian systems of exchange and credit (banking functions) well established by the medieval period that worked by transferring money without actually moving it. In parts of Asia and the Mid-East, these systems move more money transfers than conventional banks, and arguably, more commodities. These systems are legal in the U.S. and many other countries unless they involve money laundering or some other illegal function, but are illegal in countries such as Pakistan and India where they would otherwise deprive the government of massive tax revenue because of the near untraceability of transactions. They persist because they are fast, relatively inexpensive, reliable, and enable mobility by servicing the needs of migrant labor. Modern communications have made them faster, less expensive, and more reliable. How these institutions work is explicated along with consideration of how they are used to launder money and transfer funds and commodities used by terrorist organizations. Typical characteristics of illegal transfers are identified.

Understanding Ancient Societies: A New Approach Using Agent-Based Holistic Modeling

Archaeologists and other scholars interested in the past have begun to explore issues in ancient societies by incorporating new computer simulation techniques in their research. Among the popular approaches, agent-based methodologies are commonly used to answer questions involving the interactions of natural and social systems. Building upon such efforts, a new object-oriented simulation framework is being developed for ancient Mesopotamia that can assemble and execute highly complex simulation scenarios. This framework can be used to investigate socioecological interactions over a broad range of social, spatial, and temporal scales, allowing for a wide range of past socioecological issues to be concurrently addressed. Such capabilities are enabled by simulation tools that are flexible, scalable, and highly expressive. Perhaps the greatest promise of these tools for studying the past is their potential for enabling scholars to gain new insights by testing various theoretical hypotheses and perspectives in social-natural systems in a rich socioecological simulation context.

Fighting a Hydra: A Note on the Network Embeddedness of the War on Terror

While we typically count the number of people directly affected by violence, war and state action with casualty reports, we often ignore how these people are embedded in larger networks. In this paper, I estimate the number of people who know somebody who has been killed, injured or detained in the US war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thus likely at higher risk to joining a resistance movement. Since such numbers are constantly changing, an on-line web-calculator for the estimates is included so that readers can make their own estimates as well. Better understanding how friends and families are affected by such actions will help us understand the wider implications of military action.

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Structure and Dynamics Vol.1 No.2: Editorial Commentary

The Structure and Dynamics eJournal offers a conduit for refereed electronic publication, debate, and editorial communication in the domain of anthropology and human sciences. We invite you—as an open access reader at no cost, an author at no cost, or a volunteer, to submit book reviews or commentary—to contribute and to participate in raising the aspirations of the human sciences today. To submit an article, follow the link to “Submission guidelines.” To submit a review simply click Submit a “Reader's Comment” at the article site.

We comment here on the contents and success of the first two issues. Full-text downloads of the eJournal articles numbered 5,313 in the 11 months since September 23, 2005, now averaging 16-17 a day. This reflects positively on quality of the articles, made possible in turn by the high quality and incisiveness of reviews, the number and diversity of reviewers who have responded, and selection for quality in article acceptance and reviewers (and we thank our reviewers for their efforts at timely review).

In just two issues, the eJournal has come a long way in attaining the goals set out for it as a publication in which scholarship and debate can be engaged in contemporary fields of research, one that provides a venue for the study of the complex interplay between dynamics and structure, and gives an outlet for methods and results which speak to the issues of simplicity in complexity and the study of structure and dynamics. It has also facilitated presentations of new forms of analysis and visualization, new forums for debate and new vehicles for the dissemination and absorption of work at the cutting edges of the human sciences.

Authors of issue 1#1 have had feedback and good reception. Peter Turchin’s findings on historical dynamics have been replicated, for example, using data covering a 700-year period from archaeological research in the Southwest. The replication study is in press in the journal Complexity. Wikipedia, at, cites Turchin’s article in issue 1#1. Several of the issue 1#1 articles are now reviewed in blogs and on-line commentaries, digests, or reference lists, many with timely google citations. Links to them are starting to appear on educational sites at which students have direct access to download and on-line readership. Issue 1#1 marked our first use of high-quality color imagery and live url links. Krempel and Schnegg’s paper explained our journal’s dynamic-gif logo in their “About the Image: Diffusion Dynamics in an Historical Network,” which also allows the reader to link to the authors’ longer 1998 study and its on-line imagery. That article, “Exposure, Networks and Mobilization: The Petition Movement during the 1848/49 Revolution in a German Town,” published at, provides further background and examples for the innovative use of dynamic graphics.

Summing up our current issue, 1#2, and to give readers an idea of the unusual and unique features of electronic publication, we review the advantages and evolution of our permanent, paper-quality, refereed eJournal publications. Along with our use of live url links and imagery on-line, these advantages are facilitated by our UC eScholarship publisher.

In 1#2, Sean Downey provides a fascinating study that interrogates ethnographic and historical texts with the aid of simulation. He uses his approach to analyze the ethnographic/historical theory put forward by noted author Paul Willis in Learning to Labor, secondarily to show strengths and weaknesses of contemporary social theories such as those of Tony Giddens (1984) and, finally, also to identify the descriptive lacunae that limit this genre of simulation. As an invaluable gift to students and instructors (he is himself a graduate student), he supplies on-line the code for the simulation and, as a free resource, access to the simulation software package itself.

Christiansen and Altaweel’s “Understanding Ancient Societies,” subtitled “A New Approach Using Agent-Based Holistic Modeling,” describes their Argonne National Labs holistic agent-based simulation framework that couples with incredible depth to the real-world information that can be brought into simulation and modeling from the earth sciences, satellite imagery, climate modeling, the agricultural sciences, ethnography, network analysis, and a host of other areas. Focusing on the development of their model for addressing research questions about Mesopotamia, they explain and illustrate the general-purpose simulation framework. Their work offers a productive complementarity to Algaze’s lead article in our first issue, where he poses a series of questions, hypotheses, and possible lines of evidence with which to explore the processes that lead to the first cities’ takeoff.

Wouter de Nooy’s study of the networks and the structural dynamics of folktale plots, tested as well against literary interactions through time among Dutch literary critics, uses network analysis software described in his coauthored book with the software authors (de Nooy, Batagelj, and Mrvar 2005). He gives us the first-ever published SVG image produced by Pajek network software with interactivity within the SVG image itself (now available from the Pajek freeware authors at The SVG image is not simply static but directly accessible, thanks to live links inside our eScholarship pdfs, as an interactive graphic that the reader can explore for different views of the data.

Wilkinson and Tsirel evaluate limit cycles in Indic regional political polarities—how many polities in each ten year interval, coded from a comprehensive database—over two millennia. They begin with the simplest of models of temporal dynamics and historical limit cycles and proceed to evaluate at each step those of increasing complexity. The visual scanability of their multicolor graphical results helps to give the reader an ability to judge visually the contribution of different kinds of statistical analyses to understanding the complexity of the data and, in turn, the plausibility of different historical processes and explanations.

Seary, Richards, McKeown-Eyssen, and Baines, in their “Networks of Symptoms and Exposures,” provide an innovation that makes possible a better comprehension of statistical interactions in complex phenomena by enabling the reader to recognize linkages within complex data such as those in the field of medicine. The visual imagery of their 3-dimensional interactive “panigram” images, named from the Greek panis (“sail”), provides a generalization of simpler histograms that, by analogy, would be composed by an ordering of the one-dimensional heights of the ship’s masts. The 3-D panigrams form an analog of planar sails rotatable about masts that represent the spines of the data structure. Co-authoring with professionals in the medical field, they use these images to look at the interrelations of people, their exposures to disease, and how symptoms are jointly distributed across both.

Berkowitz, with his collaborators Woodward and Woodward, draws on his scholarship about the role of family and informal institutions in historical world economies to write of venerable and legal networks of exchange that have operated for millennia and yet that make it impossible to trace financial transactions through the modern computerized credit banking systems. His scholarship, interrupted by untimely death in 2003, is honored in this issue.

Palmer, Steadman, and Coe, in “More Kin: An Effect of the Tradition of Marriage,” utilize genealogical graphics, a mathematical model of networks and demography, and analysis of the relation between biology and culture to reopen important questions about the role of human kinship systems in human evolution, considered both in terms of networks and cognition. Their results for numbers of kin at various distances in bilateral kinship networks, depending both on demography and issues of social recognition, are cited in the article by Moody.

James Moody’s “Fighting a Hydra: A Note on the Network Embeddedness of the War on Terror,” shares in common with Berkowitz et al.’s article a concern for misunderstandings that prompted and have emerged out of the War on Terror. Moody writes of the effects of misguided policies, such as described in the recent best seller by Thomas Ricks (2006), that fail to take into account the “blowback” consequences of the killing, wounding, and arresting of civilians and the torture of suspected insurgents. He considers as well the effects of the wounding and deaths of soldiers, recruited into such wars, on those in their home communities, families and social networks. His on-line innovation is to provide students and the reader with a calculator for the network scale-up model of Killworth et al. (1998) to estimate the number of people who know somebody in an “event,” such as those killed in the war. “Since the values needed to make these estimates are rapidly changing and somewhat subjective, users can test the effect of different assumptions with this calculator,” as noted within the calculator itself. In our review, we highlight the general properties of the scale-up model, of which we shall see more in future articles.

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Response to Christiansen and Altaweel

This response contextualizes Christiansen and Altaweel's paper within broader currents of human-climate interactions. It then examines some of the implications of the use of wide ranging data sources for the construction of complex models as well as some of the broader implications of the simulations.

These models demonstrate the richness of human responses to environmental and social stresses as well as the tendencies for human social groups to evolve and become differentiated through simulated time.